What is the difference between SBE Verification and D/W/MBE Certification?

SBE Verification

  • Race Neutral Program
    • 51% or more owned and controlled by an economically disadvantage individual(s)
  • Personal Net Worth
    • PNW not to exceed $1,320,000)
  • SBA size standard (varies according to business category)

DBE Certification

  • Federal Certification
    • DOT contracts for highway, transit, and airport
  • Ownership
    • 51% or more owned and controlled by socially and economically disadvantage individual(s)
  • Personal Net Worth
    • PNW not to exceed $1,320,000
  • SBA size standard (varies according to business category)

MBE and WBE Certification

  • State and Local Government Contracting Authorities
  • Ownership and Control
    • 51% or more of the stock owned and controlled by minority or woman.
    • Controlling minority or woman must be capable of performing the daily management operations of business.

What are the criteria for SBE certification?

Eligibility requirements for verification as a SBE are stated in 49 CFR Part 26.39.

The following six requirements must be proved by a SBE applicant, but they do not cover all the requirements found in 49 CFR Part 26.39.

Economic Disadvantage

A disadvantaged owner must be a U.S. Citizen (or resident alien) and meet the federal definition of economically disadvantaged as defined in 49 CFR Part 26.67 or any individual found to be economically disadvantaged on a case-by-case basis.

Personal Net Worth

Only disadvantaged persons having a personal net worth (PNW) of less than $1,320,000 can be considered for SBE verification. Items excluded from a person’s net worth calculations include an individual’s ownership interest in the applicant firm and his or her equity in their primary residence.

Business Size Standard

A firm (including affiliates) must be a small business as defined by the Small Business Administration (SBA). It must not have annual gross receipts over $30,720,000 in the previous three years. Depending on the type of work the business performs, other size standards may apply.


Must be a for-profit small business concern whose economically disadvantaged individuals own at least 51% interest, control management AND daily business operations.


The business must not be affiliated with another firm in such a way as to compromise its independence and control. These include, but are not limited to, such areas as personnel, facilities, equipment, financial and/or bonding support, and other resources.

Management and Control

The economically disadvantaged owner(s) must possess the power to direct or cause the direction of the management and polices of the firm and to make day-to-day decisions, as well as long-term decisions on matters of management, policy and operation.

Is there a cost for SBE Verification?

No. The only cost associated with certification is for notarizing the application.

If I am a Certified DBE with Metra or an Illinois Unified Certification Program (ILUCP) participant, do I need to apply for SBE Verification?

No. If you are currently certified as a DBE with Metra or any ILUCP participant, you do not need to apply for SBE Verification. Your company is already considered a SBE.

Does Metra accept small business certification/verification from other agencies in Illinois?

No, at this time there is no reciprocity between Illinois agencies regarding SBE Verification. To bid on Metra set-aside contracts as a SBE you must be verified through Metra or any IL UCP participating agency.

If I am eligible for DBE Certification but am not certified, can I still apply for SBE verification?

Yes, if you choose not to be certified as a DBE you may still be eligible for SBE Verification. You must complete and submit the initial application and supporting documents for SBE Verification.

If I am not DBE Certified, should I apply for SBE first, and then the DBE Program?

No. If you intend to apply for DBE Certification, do that one first. DBE status includes SBE status. By applying once, you will receive both certifications, if approved.

Will being verified as an SBE guarantee my firm contracts?

No, verification is just the first step. There will be contracts set-aside specifically for SBEs but you must still aggressively network, market your product or service, and bid competitively.

What is the Process for SBE Verification?

The verification process begins with the submission of a complete SBE Verification application.

The following steps are taken to verify firms:

  • Your information is reviewed to attest that you meet all the necessary requirements.
  • A site visit and/or job site visit are scheduled to complete a standard questionnaire, tour the facility, and take pictures if necessary.
  • A decision is made, and your firm is notified of the decision via email. 
  • If verified, your firm will receive a certificate and approval letter of SBE Verification and be eligible to bid on Metra set-aside contracts

How long is the SBE Verification process?

On average, the SBE verification process is 60-90 days from the time a complete application and all required supporting documents are received.

If my business is verified as a SBE, what’s next?

Getting verified is just the first step!

  1. To remain in good standing, all SBE firms are required to submit an annual No Change Affidavit.
    1. This affirms that there have been no changes in the firm’s circumstances affecting its ability to meet size, disadvantaged status, ownership, or control requirements or any other material changes in the information provided in the firm’s application for certification.
    2. 60 days before the annual No Change Affidavit is due, you will receive an email from our office notifying you of the due date and required supporting documents that need to be submitted.
  2. During the period that a firm is verified, the firm must provide written notification of any changes within thirty (30) days of the occurrence of the change.
  3. Become a Registered Vendor with Metra. The process is free and simple. By submitting your contact information and your company’s services/goods online at you will receive notification of upcoming IFBs and RFPs that match your submission. Click here to register.
  4. Attend training and networking events. Marketing and growing your business are essential to maximizing your verification. Visit ODBE’s Outreach Calendar for an up-to-date list of upcoming events.

What are my appeal rights if I am denied SBE verification?

Any firm or complainant may appeal our decision in writing to:

Is there someone that I can speak to directly?

Yes, for questions regarding SBE Verification or to set-up a free consultation, please contact our certification team.

Michele Sutton
Sr. DBE Certification Specialist